My junior year of college was one of my best years of college, I started dating my now husband, ran a personal best in the 5k and the steeplechase, and had a poem published in the college’s journal. Those things were great, but in the midst of those wonderful things I was terrified of being alone, at night, in my apartment. And even when my roommates were home, I was terrified of being alone in my bedroom. And even when the doors were locked, the windows closed, everything secure, I couldn’t shake the anxiety that we were not safe.
It was an ordinary Saturday night of staying up late with friends watching TV and goofing around. We had made a late night run to Jack in the Box for tacos (oh college), and I said goodbye to my friends around 2am. I got ready for bed, plugged my iPod into its dock, and my phone into its charger, and settled in for sleep so I could be rested for long run at 9am.
At 3am, I woke up to my roommate screaming my name. I leapt out of bed, and ducked under her kicked-in-half door. I grabbed her hand, and we locked ourselves in our bathroom. She was inconsolable and trying to talk to the police on her phone. I grabbed the phone, and relayed her half sobbing, half coherent information. A man had kicked down her door, pointed a gun at her, and she screamed. He took off running down the stairs, and then we ran into the bathroom. The police asked if we were sure he left the apartment, and we had no idea. In Chico, nothing is more than ten minutes away, but the two minutes it took the police to get to our apartment were long and excruciating. My roommate was shaking and screaming and we were huddled together in the space between the toilet and the bathtub, trying to hold it together.
I don’t tell you this story to scare you, to make you feel sorry for me, I tell you this story because in that moment I truly realized there is danger in the world. There is deep sin, and scary scary things that we are not immune to just because we believe in a God who loves us. Bad things had happened to me and my family before this, but this violation of safety and security felt new, and raw, and real to me more than anything had before. I was an adult, and my parents weren’t there to take care of things for me. I, myself, had to talk to a police man about how a man came into my apartment through a tiny open window with a gun. I had to comfort my roommate who came face to face with a real weapon. I had to relay that moment over and over to friends and family for days to come.
And in the days, months, and even years following, I have had to reconcile that moment with a God who promises to love me, and asks me to trust him with the plans he has for my life. And those plans included being hurt, and scared, and anxious, and sad. Because in those moments of being hurt, scared, anxious, or sad, he is there, standing beside me. It’s not fair, it’s not beautiful, it’s not joyful, but it is necessary.
It is necessary to have these hard times because there is nowhere to look, no one to turn to except to a God who promises to “never leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
A God who promises that we will “face trials of many kinds,” but that “having stood the test, we will receive the crown of life…” (James 1:2, 12)
A God who promises that “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
A God who “comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
And a God who promises that he is our “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
I could go on and on, but the Lord has promised to walk with us, to walk before us and beside us through anything the sinful world throws at us. He did not promise to take it away, or to prevent it from happening, but he did promise we would not have to do it alone.
When Adam and Eve took a bite from the apple, sin entered the world, and now we are all suffering the consequences. Literally suffering. Because of sin entering the world there are scary and painful things, but because of our savior we do not have to be afraid. We do not have to walk alone, and we do not have to die in that sin. We do not have to sit in that sin and take it to our graves, we are free to lean on the Lord, and cry out to Jesus to be with us, and walk beside us.
In the nights that followed that terrifying night, I held a lot of fear in my heart, and I prayed and prayed for the Lord to take it away. The fear lessened over time, and I leaned on him and cried out to him for so long that my relationship with him is better for it. And I can see that in the scary and uncertain times that have come since that moment my heart has been anchored in a trust that he knows what’s best. In a sinful world, the God who loves me and knows me, knows what’s best for me. And the God who loves me and knows me, is right there beside me in and through it all.
If you are afraid, or walking a painful path that seems long and unnecessary, just remember he is with you. He is beside you, he is before you, and behind you. He loves you more than what happened, more than what’s happening, and more than what will happen in the future. He loves you enough to walk with you, and see you through to the end.